Dr. Jaxon Ray has only ever wanted one woman. He’s loved her from afar since their Junior School days, worshiping the ground she walks on, intent on having her for his own when the time is right.
Amber St. George isn’t interested in the trappings that come with her family’s wealth. A simple life as a teacher at an underprivileged school, a comfortable home with her lover, and good friends; that’s all she desires.
Once Jax decides it’s time to take what’s his, Amber finds herself at the mercy of a madman. A sociopath with access to the latest neurological advancements, who possesses the ability to use her own mind to keep her captive. Programmed to forget. Reprogrammed as her captor’s perfect partner. Amber’s left with medically-induced amnesia and no idea that she’s in for the fight of her life.
When the people who know you’re missing aren’t on your side, and the love of your life has been led to believe that you’ve turned your back on him, is rescue possible? When you can’t remember the real you, is escape even on the cards?
On shaking legs, I make my way down the ornate staircase. Ever since I woke up in Jax’s bedroom, my mind has been racing a million miles an hour. What am I doing here?
A hell that I swore I’d never return to.
I press my palm against my forehead and squint my eyes, trying to get some answers out of my almost empty head. I know enough to recognise who I am and my current location. Apart from that, my mind feels like a dense cloud of nothingness.
As I descend further, voices become clearer. My father. My mother. Jax. His father. Sebastian. Oh my God, Seb is here. Without thought, or care for my protesting body, I run down the remainder of the steps and straight into Seb’s arms. His familiar embrace engulfs me, my entire weight falling against him as relief that I have one ally in this room hits me.
“Amby Pamby,” Seb rests his chin on the top of my head as he addresses me by the ridiculous nickname he gave me when we were kids. “It’s damn good to see you again.”
“Same.” The word leaves me in a rush, confusion wrapping around my answer with an urgent intensity.
Seb grabs me by the top of my arms and pulls me from his chest. He looks down at me with serious eyes that reside in a face that’s identical to his big brother’s, except for one glaring difference. His face is full of warmth and kindness, something that can never be said for Jax.
“What’s wrong?” He lets go of me with one hand and gestures around the room. “Apart from the obvious. What the hell are you doing here? You made your feelings about my brother very clear the day you disappeared from our lives like you’d never existed.”
My shoulders nearly touch my ear lobes when I shrug. “I don’t know. My memory’s gone.”
Jax clears his throat, stepping into my space and laying an arm across my shoulders. With obvious intent, he steers me away from Seb until I standing between him and my father. I send a searching look in Dad’s direction. He surprises me by meeting my silent questioning with a smile and an approving nod. I might not be able to remember much, but I know that this isn’t usual.
As I open my mouth to greet my parents, the last sentence that Seb said sinks in. I whirl around to face him. “What do you mean I disappeared from your lives?”
Jax cuts in before his brother can speak. “He’s talking out of his ass, like usual.”
He takes hold of my upper arms with a gentleness that isn’t mirrored in his tense expression. “Baby, you know what Seb’s like. He’s been enjoying himself immensely, using your amnesia to take liberties with our history.”
His fingers tighten around my biceps and he pulls me into his chest, tucking me under his chin and wrapping strong arms around me. “Why, just yesterday, he had you believing that you had run away from me to study abroad.”
The chuckle that rumbles in his chest sounds sincere and nobody in the foyer speaks up to deny what Jax has said. However, I can feel increased tension pervading the atmosphere when he addresses his brother. “Isn’t that right, Seb? You’re toying with my poor fiancée.”
I attempt to turn in Jax’s arms so I can see Seb’s face. The arms that hold me turn from strong and comforting to constricting in an instant. I’m effectively pinned against my fiancé’s chest, and left to rely on my hearing to determine the sincerity in his brother’s answer.
“Yeah.” A dry laugh fills the foyer. “I’m just messing with you.”
Warm breath blows over the top of my head as Jax lets out the breath that I realise he was holding. He releases his hold on me, just before Seb pats my shoulder. I turn to my childhood friend—and apparent brother-in-law-to-be—and poke him in the stomach.
“You’re so mean.” My tone is deliberately light, although my gaze is serious when I meet his eyes. “Maybe, you can tell me the truth instead? Fill in the blanks.”
Seb’s eyes widen. He looks at the floor and shuffles his feet. “I don’t know if that’s possible. Memories are subjective. Depends who’s telling the story, doesn’t it?”
He doesn’t wait for my answer to his cryptic response. Pushing past Jax, he throws an arm over my shoulder and stokes my hair before laying a kiss on the top of my head. Then, he glares at his big brother and strides toward the front door. As the butler closes it behind his retreating figure, a sense of familiarity tugs at the edges of my mind and a recollection breaks free.
I’m lying on my bathroom floor, naked and crying, when a teenage Seb pushes the door open and rushes into the vast, tiled room. He drops to his knees next to me, pulling an extra towel from the rail above us, and draping it over my shoulders. With a strength that he shouldn’t possess at his young age, he picks me up and sits me in his lap.
“I hate him.”
A shaky hand strokes the back of my head, fingers tangling lightly in my knotted hair, and he whispers, “I know, Amby Pamby. He’s evil. But, I don’t know how to stop him. Maybe if you try to forget what he’s done, you won’t feel so bad. Grandpa always says that memories are subjective because it depends on who’s telling the story. I guess that means that we can get rid of the bad ones if we try hard enough to forget. After all, our life is our story.”
The words from my memory are so similar to the one’s that Seb just said, that a sense of déjà vu grips me, and I slap my hand over my mouth. Jax returns his attention to me. I stare at him through disbelieving eyes and try to really take him in.
On the surface, he looks stressed and concerned. Like a worried fiancé should. Except, the anxiety doesn’t seem to come from true concern, it’s an act. As if, he knows it’s expected of him, so he’s providing it.
Seb’s strange departure—and the memory it shook free—has a million questions running around my head, rattling against my skull, demanding answers. Self-preservation screams louder than my confusion. It drowns out my need for an explanation; instead, cautioning me that the people in this room aren’t trustworthy.
With this warning at the forefront of my thoughts, I let Jax take my arm in his, and lead me to toward the formal lounge. My acquiescence has the tension in his athletic frame lessening with each step until the smile that I send his way has it disappearing completely. We settle next to each other onto one of the ornate love seats. My parents sit directly across from us, and Henry, Jax and Seb’s dad, sits on the single seat next to me. A hushed reverence fills the room, making me forget my immediate problems. It feels like someone has died.
“Amber-Rose,” my father addresses me by my full name. It sends shivers down my spine, the prickling sensation growing into apprehension. Jax takes my closest hand and places it in his lap. He runs warm fingers across the pulse point in my wrist. It calms me; removing my doubts about him, and replacing them with a sensual lick of desire that has me trying my hardest not to press my thighs together and squirm in front of my parents.
If it didn’t feel so delicious, it would be humiliating in its intensity.
A smirk lifts the corner of Jax’s full lips, signalling that he knows what he’s doing to me. I try to tug my hand from his grip, stopping when his tightened hold tells me that he’s not going to let me go. A devious glint can be seen in his expression, moments before he increases the pace of his soft ministrations. The answering ripple of desire that runs through my body almost drowns out the words that leave my father’s mouth next.
“After we attend Charles’ funeral this afternoon, we need to sit down and hammer out the fine details of your prenup. You’ve had enough time to get on board with this. It’s time to seal the deal and join our families.” My mind sticks on the first part of Dad’s declaration, not comprehending the enormity of his final sentence.
Charles’ funeral? The only Charles I can remember is my Uncle Charlie. My dad’s younger brother. I look at my mother for the first time, noticing the strain around her eyes and the tight line of her lips. She doesn’t even attempt to smile at me, the sorrow that’s painted on her face all the confirmation I need.
“Uncle Charlie’s dead?”
“Yesterday,” Jax answers without pausing. “He was shot in front of you. Don’t you remember?”
Grief is causing my heart to pound in my ears. It’s almost deafening; yet, it doesn’t drown out the mocking in Jax’s voice. My shoulder hits his when I swing around to face him. The devious desire that filled his expression moments ago has been replaced by a challenge.
Why he’s looking at me like that, I don’t know. But, it’s not right.
My eyesight fades, darkness taking hold as what Jax said circles my addled brain.
He was shot in front of you.
Don’t you remember?
Voices fill my head, competing for dominance with the wild rush of remembrance that’s flooding me.
Jax. Uncle Charlie. Xander.
He’s my fiancé. My real fiancé.
No, he’s not. Jax is.
No Xander, my fiancé was there.
To save me.
There’s an argument. Uncle Charlie yells at Jax.
A loud bang. Jax shoots my uncle in front of me.
Don’t you remember?
“I remember.” The words leave my lips before I can stop them. My ever-present self-preservation stops me from verbalising exactly what it is that I remember. Jax nods, taking my hands in his, squeezing them painfully.
“That’s good, baby.” He murmurs this against my hair, then stands and lifts me into the air. “That means you know what I’m capable of and you’re scared. I like that. Except if you remember, then you know what I did to you, and that’s not good.”
My body sways when Jax starts walking. My hands push against his chest in a ridiculous protest. I don’t have any allies here so escape is futile. My body recognises this, a leaden feeling of surrender overcoming me. The fight leaves me. My head dropping against Jax’s shoulder.
“Amber needs another dose,” he announces to the room just before we cross the threshold into the foyer and head for the stairs.
“Whatever it takes to keep her under control,” my dad answers.
“The finishing line is too close for this fall apart now.” Henry sounds stern when he comments. “If it does, we’re all ruined.”
His strange choice of words piques my curiosity and I try to force my mind to provide the answer to my newest question.
How do I make this fall apart so I can ruin them all?
Mum to two crazy, adorable, and creative kids.
Crohn’s Disease sufferer and awareness campaigner.
She’s also an avid tea drinker, a connoisseur of 80’s/90’s rock music, and is known for lacing everything she says with sarcasm and inappropriate innuendo.
Formerly working in finance, she was forced to reevaluate her plans for her life when severe Crohn’s Disease brought her corporate career to a screeching halt. Restarting her childhood hobbies of writing and reading to alleviate the monotony of being sick and housebound, she found her calling and is enjoying life to the max. A typical day is spent in the “real” world where she hangs out with her awesome family and “book” world where she gets to chill with her fictional characters.
Kylie writes the books she wants to read. A lover of strong men who aren’t perfect and aren’t afraid to admit it, straight talking women who embrace their vulnerabilities, and real life gritty stories, she hopes these themes shine through her writing. An avid reader of all genres, Kylie hopes to release books that keep the reader on the edge of their seat- be it with suspense, heart-stopping thrills, or laughter.